You can watch the launch live on NASA TV at 4:50pm EST. Coverage of activities leading up to the launch is already underway.
|Discovery awaits on launch pad 39A|
So, isn't Leonardo the name of another module?Well, yes and no. Leonardo is the name of the module, but it has been re-purposed, beginning life as a multi-purpose logistics module that made several trips to the station delivering cargo, to a permanent fixture on the station, providing an additional storage and experimental space. With the retirement of the only vehicle capable of hauling the module into space - the Space Shuttle, the decision was made to convert one of the three Italian built multi-purpose modules to a permanent Space Station module and leave it attached when the delivering Shuttle departs.
|Cosmonaut Yuri P. Gidzenko floats inside Leonardo|
So, are these the droids they are looking for?Yes, very funny. Robonaut 2, or "R2" if you like, is the first so called human-like robotic assistant and has "hands" that allow it to perform tasks beyond the scope of previously introduced humanoid robots. R2 is able to lift a 20lb weight with ease, but unlike its more famous Star Wars namesake R2-D2 he is unable to think autonomously and would be completely useless in the swamps of Dagobah. He does however have a twitter account, and will be tweeting about his Shuttle launch experience. Find out more at http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/myexploration/index2.html and follow @AstroRobonaut on twitter.
Robonaut 2, also known as R2
Stay tuned to Spacers for more updates on the launch today.
update: 1:11pm EST] The vehicle convoy is on its way carrying the crew to the launch pad.
update: 2:16pm EST] Crew is being strapped into their seats. No issues are currently being worked and the weather looks good for an on-time launch.
[update: 2:41pm EST] Com checks underway.
update: 3:02pm EST] Hatch is closed. Astronauts are sealed inside the Shuttle. Looking good for on-time launch at 4:50pm EST.
[update: 4:17pm EST] Closeout crew is clear of the launchpad. Discovery is ready for launch. Flight controllers will be polled for a go/no go shortly.
[update: 4:33pm EST] Range systems report computer problem. Issue could postpone launch if not resolved.
update: 4:40pm EST] Flight controllers polled. Range safety is no-go. Mission managers will give them until T-5:00 before postponing launch.
[update: 4:46pm EST] Holding a T-5:00. Range safety is still no-go.
[update: 4:49pm EST] Range is GO!
[update: 4:54pm EST] Discovery launches!
Images credit: NASA